On Friday, November 22nd we will return after a couple months off at the amazing UWM Lubar Entrepreneurship Center with Keller (Kelly) Fitzsimmons to talk on this month’s theme: LOST.
This month is particularly special for us because our chapter had the honor to choose the theme! For this event, we will also have a special performance by Milwaukee-based Soul Pop singer/songwriter, Lex Allen, and singer/songwriter, Barbara Stephan!
We sat down to get to know Kelly a little more in our interview below:
What do you usually eat for breakfast?
I’m the queen of the breakfast smoothie. Usually it’s an exotic version of a chocolate shake or a virgin piña colada… with spinach.
What do people know you for?
I’m known as a technology entrepreneur and early industry evangelist in information security, voice interface, and virtual reality. I tend to show up to the party about 7 years too early and then hang awkwardly by the punch bowl. Today, I am becoming better known as an author. My book, Lost in Startuplandia, has become a bestseller, which is still weird to me. Someday, I want to be known for my music. It took me only 40 years to admit that.
How is Milwaukee special to you?
I was born and mostly raised here. I’m a third-generation entrepreneur. As a family, we started several meaningful and successful businesses in the Greater Milwaukee area. My parents, Donald and Donna Baumgartner, are passionate about the arts and ensured that I caught the bug. My husband Jeff and I have focused our energy on Milwaukee Film and 88Nine Radio Milwaukee. Currently, I work with the artists selected in 88Nine’s Backline program in a companion program called Vision, which focuses on the artists’ mental wellness and building a support community for them.
What inspires you creatively?
Novelty. Anything sufficiently weird will inspire me. My main artistic mediums are words and sound so I tend to collect ideas on Voice Memos on my phone. One time my daughter, Reiley, discovered my Voice Memos app at a doctor’s office and started playing my sound ideas on maximum volume. I ended up chasing her around the doctor’s office as she played such memorable gems as “Momma Beats 2” and “Parking Lot.”
What will you share during your talk?
Our theme is lost and that pretty much sums up my life. At 29, my second startup failed, leaving me on the hook for $5 million in personally guaranteed debt. Finding my way out of that situation is one of the stories. But more recently, I dealt with a health crisis that turned my world upside down. I ended up questioning whether or not I could be an entrepreneur or even work again. As a kid, I was terrified of being lost. Today I see being lost as a hallowed state. It’s the transition between what’s known and unknown. If we never get lost, how can we figure out where we are going?